The Power and Problem with Church Branding

Taken from Religious Product News magazine, May 2007

What if you could change the way people saw your church? What if you could give it the kind of extreme makeover that would make a new generation take notice and knock on your door? Could you, by communication build a bridge towards a new you? Most assuredly. Can you do it without internally embodying the relevance that your design emanates? Most assuredly not.

Branding is known as the consistent use of design and communication in order or to establish a clearly defined image. It works when that image is consistent with the essence of who you are. When it is not consistent with who and how you are, you come across as a poser—losing more credibility than you know. Church branding is real. It is here and it is at work in your church whether you realize it or not. You are either deliberately telling the world your story, or you are the byproduct of indiscriminant messages—the sum of it all creates your brand—your perceived sense of self through the eyes of your surrounding community.

Strategic church branding is becoming more and more of a necessity. As our previous brand names: Baptist, Methodist, Assemblies of God, and the like, fall off of our churches, a new generation of branding is coming to light. That is, reaching people with the stories our denominations do not tell. Who speaks the language of the community the best? Who speaks to which segments? Who defines cultural relevance and spiritual value? How can we learn what the spirit of your church is from a distance? It is a branding issue. A good starting point: the communication you create yourself. What if you developed a deliberate brand overhaul?

Every church needs a branding strategy. It simply makes sense. It is a commitment to communicate with consistency, established values, and a clear knowledge of the target. It takes less effort to maintain when you reuse the same design and communication threads throughout all you do. It is smart. It is done by every legitimate corporation of our day.

So why don’t more churches have a brand strategy? Why is it that 90% of the churches in the U.S. have logos and design styles that vary in everything they do—often representing the landscape of volunteer designers that have been burnt-out over time? I’ll raise my hand to answer this one. It is because we do not know who we are and we do not know whom we are called to reach or how to reach them. When we do, branding becomes the natural outflow of our successful communication with those people.

Branding cannot cure our inability to connect with a certain audience. If we do not reach them with our music and message, we will not reach them by the repackaging of it. We have to resonate with people. When we do, it becomes the defining point of our brand.

This leads to the big problem with branding. Drum roll please…

The problem with branding is this: to the extent you are consistent—if you are not strategic, then you are consistently un-strategic. In all you do, if you miss the mark, it is difficult and costly to recover. Branding, like anything else we do for God starts with prayer, vision, wise counsel, a passion for the lost, knowledge of who you are and whom you are called to reach. Without these things and proven success in reaching people, branding is often a stab in the dark that alienates more than engages.

Article by Richard Reising
Richard Reising is the author of ChurchMarketing 101: Preparing Your Church for Greater Growth (Baker Books). Reising is a recognized authority on church marketing and branding and the founder and president of the Dallas-based Artistry Marketing Concepts, an organization that helps churches and ministries make wise use of marketing, design, and technology. He has helped hundreds of ministries in the United States and worldwide through speaking engagements and training seminars.

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